When can police use a "bomb robot" to kill a suspect?

Others scholars said the situation seemed a little murkier. Keith Abney, a professor of ethics and emerging sciences at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, said that while the police officers’ decision to use the robot to kill the suspect in this case “doesn’t seem fundamentally ethically different from another distance weapon, like a sniper rifle, used to take out suspects in an active shooter situation,” there is still the question of why the suspect had to die.

“One can wonder why, if they could send in a teleoperated robot with C4 to kill the suspect,” he told TIME, “why they couldn’t instead equip the robot with knockout gas or some other nonlethal agent to capture the suspect, instead of killing him.”

Gloria Browne-Marshall, an associate professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said the incident was most concerning because of what it means for future cases: What are the parameters surrounding the use of such technology on civilian soil? “If we’re going to start using—as a country—this kind of drone technology and robots on a civilian population, then we’re easing into a civil war,” she told TIME. “We’re easing into one because we have civilians who believe that the government is not protecting them, and we have a government who believes that civilians are armed enough that they have to use military tactics.”